We all have things that we're afraid of in life. But here's the thing to remember about fear: It is a natural, human response to encountering something unfamiliar, challenging or uncertain. That's why the advice to "Be fearless!" is so terrible.
Trying to be fearless while doing new things is like trying not to laugh at a funny joke — it's impossible. As an emotional wellness coach, my job is to help people identify and work through their fears.
Here are the three most common fears that I've seen hold people from achieving success, and how overcome them:
1. Fear of failure
When taking on something new, there's no way to know if you will succeed. But if you constantly focus on all the things that could go wrong, you'll have less mental energy to invest in your goal.
To move past this fear, connect with your "bigger why" — or the sense of purpose behind what you're doing. Ask yourself:
- How does working on this challenge help me grow or get closer to my goal? Your startup idea might fill a need in an industry, for example, while also giving you the freedom to work your own hours.
- How can this challenge improve someone else's life? Research shows that when we adopt a prosocial mindset — or think about how our actions can benefit others — we are more resilient and motivated.
2. Fear of not being good enough
This fear might sound like "That job requires a lot of communication skills, and I'm bad at that," or "I could never work at that company. They only hire Ivy League grads."
The secret to overcoming this fear is to self-edit your thoughts. Ask yourself:
- Is this thought true? Maybe you're afraid you'll mess up a huge presentation and your colleagues will judge you. Usually when you do this, you'll learn that your thoughts are colored by your brain's negativity bias and aren't rooted in facts.
- What do I get by believing that I'm not good enough? Let's say you just got a promotion, and you're convinced you won't know how to handle the new responsibilities. Will this mindset encourage you to give it your all? Of course not. Once you recognize this, think about what you can do to boost chances of success? It might be taking an online course or seeking advice from a mentor.
3. Fear of disappointing others
No one likes to be a letdown, especially to someone they admire or respect. But the people who truly care about you are not judges waiting to score you on your performance. Instead, they want to see you succeed, even if it means multiple tries.
It's also important to take time to understand yourself, identify your goals, and define what success means to you. This way, you'll be less likely to obsess over other people's opinions of you or the expectations that you think they've set for you.
Nataly Kogan is an emotional wellness coach and best-selling author of "The Awesome Human Project: Break Free from Daily Burnout, Struggle Less, and Thrive More in Work and Life" and "Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments." She has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Follow Nataly on Twitter @natalykogan.
- A neuroscientist shares the 6 exercises she does every day to build resilience and mental strength
- Want to sound more confident? Avoid these 11 words and phrases that make you look ‘weak,’ say grammar experts
- A Harvard nutritionist and brain expert says she avoids these 5 foods that ‘weaken memory and focus’
Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter